It just means more: SEC weighs expanding conference schedule

Jun 1, 2022, 4:59 AM | Updated: 5:01 pm

Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher addresses a new conference in Destin, Fla., Wednesday, June, 01, 2022....

Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher addresses a new conference in Destin, Fla., Wednesday, June, 01, 2022. A jovial Fisher said repeatedly on Wednesday he was “moving on” from the war of words between he and his former boss that sprinkled soap-opera drama on the Southeastern Conference's spring meetings this week. (AP Photo/Ralph Russo)

(AP Photo/Ralph Russo)

DESTIN, Fla. (AP) — The Southeastern Conference’s slogan, “It just means more,” could soon refer to the number of football games the league schedules.

SEC coaches and athletic directors have been meeting this week at a resort on the Gulf Coast of Florida. Atop the agenda is whether the conference schedule should expand from eight to nine games when the league itself grows from 14 to 16 teams with the additions of Texas and Oklahoma.

Whether a decision comes by the time the spring meetings wrap up Friday is still to be determined — and seeming more unlikely at the end of Wednesday’s sessions.

“We’ve got some questions still to answer,” Commissioner Greg Sankey said. “We’ve got more work to do.”

The SEC presidents, who have final say on schedule change, meet Thursday with the ADs. Sankey said the executive committee would be updated on the discussions and the conference was in no rush to make a decision, but would not commit to whether the group would vote.

“Wait till Friday,” he said.

Even those in the conference who have generally been supportive of playing more league games acknowledge it’s a move that comes with potential complications.

“Eight has worked very well for our conference,” Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne said Wednesday. “You’ve seen how we’ve scheduled (for future seasons) and we’ve added Power Five, Autonomy Five, games to our schedule. Now we did that based off of thinking we were going to continue to play eight games.”

The scheduling model choices have been whittled down to two: Nine games with three permanent rivals for each team and six opponents that would rotate over a four-year cycle or a model more similar to what the SEC uses now — eight games with one annual rivalry and the other seven opponents rotating.

Regardless of the number of games the SEC plays among itself, Sankey said this week the league is heading toward scrapping its divisional format when Oklahoma and Texas jump on board.

The Big 12 schools are currently scheduled to join the SEC in 2025. The Longhorns and Sooners are contractually bound to the Big 12 until then and it could cost tens of millions of dollars to break the deal even a year early.

Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione said at the Big 12 meetings in Dallas the SEC has gotten feedback from the newcomers on scheduling discussions.

“The SEC has been very thoughtful about engaging both Oklahoma and Texas in conversations about scheduling models for all sports,” Castiglione said.

Even though the SEC might not implement a new format until 2025, a decision needs to come fairly soon so its schools can adjust or get out of game contracts for nonconference games that have been signed years in advance.

Long before the SEC decided to expand there were complaints in the conference about how infrequently some teams from across its East and West divisions play each other.

The most glaring example: Texas A&M joined the SEC in 2012 and still has not hosted Georgia.

Dumping divisions would help fix that — and it seems to be a trend throughout major college football.

The Pac-12 already tossed out its divisional format for the coming season and the Atlantic Coast Conference appears headed to do the same by 2023. The Big 12 and Big Ten are also considering how best to structure their conferences and determine a champion in future seasons.

The Big 12 is adding four new members as soon as 2023 and could be a 14-team league until Texas and Oklahoma depart. The current 10-team Big 12 has been playing without divisions and matching the top two teams in its final standings in its football championship game for several years.

“You go back now and look at the results and the history and that kind of proved to be the right call,” West Virginia athletic director Shane Lyons said. “So we don’t want to screw that up as we move forward.”

Adding another conference game in the SEC would also help increase the frequency with which teams play, but it come with downside.

With a nine-game schedule, every other year teams would play more road conference games (five) than home games (four). Plus, an extra conference game is a guaranteed additional loss for half the teams each season.

For some schools, adding an extra degree of difficulty to competing in what has been the toughest conference in the country is not ideal. While Alabama and Georgia aspire to play for national championships every year, consistently stringing together winning seasons is the goal for other programs.

“You have each team, each program sees itself differently based on where it’s at what it does and where it can be,” Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher said.

Fisher also said he would welcome an annual game with former Big 12 and Southwest Conference rival Texas.

Byrne said it would make sense for the SEC to drop its requirement that each school schedules at least one Power Five nonconference opponent per season if the league does go to a nine-game schedule.

Another issues is the uncertainty of the future of the College Football Playoff. CFP expansion talks fell apart last year, leaving the four-team format in place through the 2025 season.

There is no playoff format for beyond 2025.

“I think a lot of what we have to do right now is not only look at what’s right for our institution, which we’re all going to do, but also what’s right for the game of football,” Byrne said. “What’s right for college athletics as a whole as this is evolving very dramatically right now.”


AP Sports Writer Stephen Hawkins in Dallas contributed to this report.


Follow Ralph D. Russo at https://twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP and listen at http://www.appodcasts.com


More AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Associated Press

Ex-Packer Guion gets 1 year for domestic violence assault

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Former Green Bay Packers defensive tackle Letroy Guion was sentenced to one year in jail after pleading no contest in a domestic violence assault at his home last fall. Brown County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Walsh also ordered Guion on Tuesday to serve three years’ probation and complete a domestic […]

1 year ago

Joe Jarzynka...

Associated Press

Durant eager for Suns debut vs. Hornets after knee injury

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Kevin Durant has been through quite a bit during his 15-year NBA career — but joining a new team midway through the season is a new one for the 13-time All-Star. The 34-year-old Durant doesn’t seem all that worried. Durant makes his highly anticipated Phoenix Suns debut on Wednesday night against […]

1 year ago

FILE - Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores stands on the sideline during the second half of an N...

Associated Press

Judge: NFL coach can press discrimination claims in court

NEW YORK (AP) — NFL Coach Brian Flores can pursue some of his discrimination claims against the league and its teams in court rather than through arbitration, a judge ruled Wednesday. The written decision by Judge Valerie Caproni in Manhattan was issued months after lawyers for the league tried to get the lawsuit moved to […]

1 year ago

Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Alex Stalock cools off in the first period during an NHL hockey game ...

Associated Press

Kane trade reinforces hard reality of Blackhawks rebuild

CHICAGO (AP) — After days of speculation, the harsh reality of the Chicago Blackhawks’ situation was reinforced by one move in a flurry of transactions ahead of the NHL trade deadline. Showtime is over, at least in Chicago, and a seemingly bright future is, well, way off in the distance. The reverberations of Chicago’s decision […]

1 year ago

FILE -  Yves Jean-Bart, president of the Haitian Football Federation, wearing a protective face mas...

Associated Press

Disgraced ex-Haitian soccer president announces he’s back

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Haiti’s former soccer federation president whose lifetime ban from sport over sexual abuse allegations was overturned last month announced Wednesday that he is reclaiming his position. Yves Jean-Bart’s defiant announcement could lead to a standoff with FIFA, which already has appointed an emergency management committee to lead the Haitian Football Association […]

1 year ago

FILE - Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers walks off the field after an NFL football game against the ...

Associated Press

Rodgers says decision on future will come ‘soon enough’

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Aaron Rodgers says he will make a decision on his future “soon enough” as the four-time MVP quarterback ponders whether to play next season and if his future remains with the Green Bay Packers. Rodgers, 39, discussed his future while speaking on an episode of the “Aubrey Marcus Podcast” that […]

1 year ago

It just means more: SEC weighs expanding conference schedule